Trash as Art
Dark Alley, book #3 in my Manhattan Mysteries series, features a trash artist. There really are such people—for example, Justin Gignac, who sells “100% authentic New York City Garbage.” He selects it himself, then arranges it in Lucite cubes that are signed, numbered and dated. To date he’s sold over 1,200 cubes to people in more than 25 countries. I caught up with Justin and he was kind enough to answer some questions.
EM: Have you noticed that any particular group of people buy more than others—Tourists? Native New Yorkers? Young people? Older people?
JG: Since almost all of my sales have been online it’s hard to know much beyond where they live. Initially most of my sales were local, but once the word spread online international sales have taken off. If I had to guess I would say it’s pretty evenly split between US and international. And of the US about 1/3 are in the New York area.
EM: Are some pieces more popular than others?
JG: The original garbage cubes are definitely the best seller. Limited editions have done well though, since people have such a connection to the events. Some of my editions have included the World Series, the Republican National Convention at MSG, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, the last Opening Day at Shea and the Last Game at Yankee Stadium.
EM: Will you be adding sculptures from additional places in New York?
JG: I’ve recently done editions from Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium and CitiField. I’ve also been considering doing limited editions from each borough. I might put it up to a vote on the website to see which to do first.
EM: Have you thought about trying to get your work into galleries or museums?
JG: I’d love to get my garbage cubes into a gallery. A few cubes have been part of group shows but I have yet to do a solo show. That’s one of my goals for this year. The thing I’ve found most compelling about my cubes is watching people interact with them. When people have had the opportunity to choose from a few they spend so much time examining each cube, comparing, and they always end up having a deeply personal connection to at least one. I think people are drawn to the cube that is the best reflection of themselves. I’m in discussions with a couple galleries right now so I’m hopeful it will happen.
EM: What message are you trying to send, if any, about garbage with your pieces?
JG: Well, it all started initially as an answer to a packaging problem. One day at my summer internship we were having a discussion about the importance of package design. One of my coworkers claimed package design wasn’t important and I thought that was ridiculous. I figured the only way to prove them wrong would be to package something that absolutely nobody would ever want to buy. If I could convince someone to buy it, I’d know my package design was successful. So I stared down into Times Square for a few minutes and it hit me . . . garbage! There’s also various commentary about consumerism, consumption and how we place value on things. Choose whatever one you like.